England tour no distraction for Quins stars
Harlequins winger Sam Smith has insisted the prospect of a place on England’s summer tour to South Africa will not distract the team from their Premiership destiny.
Head coach Stuart Lancaster will take an enlarged squad overseas for the three Test series against the Springboks, which will feature midweek matches against SA Barbarians North and South.
The 42-year-old said it represented a great opportunity for a wider group of players to throw their hat in to the ring for international honours as he prepares a squad for the 2015 World Cup on home turf.
Quins and England captain Chris Robshaw will be the first on his list for the touring party, while Mike Brown, Jordan Turner-Hall, Joe Marler, Karl Dickson, George Robson and Ugo Monye have all pressed their claims for inclusion at one time or another this season.
Director of rugby Conor O’Shea’s men, currently top of the table, bid to secure top spot and a home semi-final draw when Leicester Tigers visit the Stoop on Saturday.
And Smith reckoned the club’s batch of international hopefuls would only have one thing on the top of their agenda.
“It is great news for guys like Karl Dickson, Joe Marler and Joe Gray who have been in and around the set-up this season,” he said.
“But while they will have that at the back of their minds it is all about the Premiership for us now.
“We have spent all season at the top of the table and for us to fall at the final hurdle would be heartbreaking.”
Tries from Monye, Robson, Robshaw and Turner-Hall accounted for relegation threatened Wasps 33-17 last week as Quins stretched their six-point advantage on the table.
O’Shea’s side, who have not lost at their home ground since May, will undergo a stiff examination by the free-scoring Tigers on Saturday as they look to add to their 63-try tally for the season and upset Harlequins’ march to the play-offs.
But Smith, enjoying more appearances in the famous quartered shirt this season than during any other campaign of his fledgling career, is relishing the challenge and believed the club’s big game experience was only going to stand them in good stead.
“We are really proud of our home record and are confident of beating anyone that comes to the Stoop,” he added.
“All the experience we have gained in big matches in the past few seasons is something Leicester have been for years.
“But our experienced players – like Chris Robshaw, Nick Easter and Mike Brown – are the ones driving this team.
“People like me have learned a lot from them and that is only going to help us moving forward.”
The squad for South Africa is announced on May 10.